Xiamen, or Amoy as some call it, is a small city by Chinese standards being home to only around 600,000 people but it can still get pretty busy being a popular tourist destination for many Chinese. It’s an attractive coastal city, clean and has a certain charm about it not seen in other Chinese cities I have been.
In the 1840s the British invaded the area and began colonizing, opening the port for trade, and soon after many other western countries came into town and established colonies. The memories of this past can be seen in the beautiful old colonial-style buildings that can be found throughout the city.
In 1938 the Japanese invaded and took over the city until 1945 and fortunately, after the Japanese surrender, Chinese life here began again. Today Xiamen is a peaceful, breezy tourist hotspot, and it’s easy to see why, with great weather, great views and a laid back feel.
Xiamen has been well established as a tourism destination, Zhongshan Road near the Ferry Terminal caters for visitors perfectly with a long street full of shopping, night markets and loads of places to eat. There are lots of Western-style fast-food chains here, McD’s, KFC, Pizza Hut and I found at least one of the Japanese Ajisen Ramen stores to eat at.
This old European style architecture houses one of China’s famous luxury brand stores, PCD.
Even the backstreets of Xiamen have loads of character.
And just like everywhere in China, there’s plenty of food stalls and even ‘food streets’ packed with little restaurants and stalls.
The Esplanade at night is a popular place where locals and visitors relax and take in the cool breeze that comes off the water.
Gulangyu, or Kulangsu, is most certainly the main reason most people come to Xiamen. A quaint island with almost exclusively European architecture and a very bohemian vibe. It was on this island that British and European countries opened their consulates post the Sino-British war.
Today, Gulangyu is a bustling tourist spot and Chinese tourists flood the small but beautifully scenic island. Attractions on the island are mostly colonial architecture, family mansions, and the beautiful coastal views, including
- Huang Rongyuan Mansion (1920)
- former British Consulate (1844)
- former German Consulate (1870)
- Melon Building (1922)
- Yizu Mansion (1920s)
- Koh Family Mansion (1930s)
- Yang Family Villa (1913)
- the former Japanese Consulate
- former Dutch Consulate (1890) and now Museum of Gulangyu history
- Bagua Building (1907) and now Piano Museum
- the Gothic Spanish-Catholic Church (1917)
- Huang Family Villa (1920s)
- the Union Church (1863)
- Trinity Church (1928)
- Sunlight Rock where you can still find traditional Min-nan style houses (1900s)
- Gulangyu Beach
- Shuzhuang Gardens
The island is easy to stroll around and maps are easily available. You can spend a large part of the day here, but not much more unless you are fanatical about colonial architecture. Some people do like to stay on the island, especially couples, and on the map below I have included a marker and link for the top-rated places to stay on the island.
Ferry to Gulangyu
Note you should get ferry tickets as early as possible as they sell out. Also, note while there is a more central ferry it’s local passengers only.
Take the ferry from Xiamen International Cruise Center (厦门国际邮轮中心) at Dongdu to Sanqiutian or Neicuoao Terminals on Gulangyu. 25 min journey. The roundtrip fare is 35 RMB.
Xiamen & Gulangyu Attraction Map
This map includes the famous buildings on Gulangyu (approx locations) plus attractions in Xiamen and my pick for the top ten hotels.
Top Places to Stay in Xiamen
- Hotel Indigo Xiamen Harbour – five-star and right on the waterfront
- Marco Polo Xiamen – five-star and also on the waterfront
- Le Méridien Xiamen – located at the foot of the picturesque Xianyue Mountain
Also see my top picks for 15 hotels in Xiamen
The Top Attractions and Things to do in Xiamen
- Gulangyu (鼓浪屿) – the famous island noted for its scenic vistas and European architecture.
- Jimei (集美大学) – Jimei University in Xiamen is famous for being reputed as the most beautiful school in China. It also has a lot of interesting architecture and its also home to white dolphins.
- South Putuo Temple (南普陀寺) – a beautiful Buddhist temple founded in the Tang Dynasty
- Hulishan Battery and Huli Hill Fort (胡里山炮台) – Read more
- Zhongshan Road (中山路步行街) – shopping, snacking, and European colonial architecture
Top Foods to try in Xiamen
Xiamen is most well known for its fresh seafood and you will not have to go far to find it. Here is a list of the local favorite dishes of all types
- Xiamen Glass Noodles 面线糊
- Oyster omelet 海蛎煎
- Xiamen Fish Balls 厦门鱼丸
- Sea worm jelly 土笋冻
- Shacha Noodles 沙茶面
- Shrimp Noodle Soup 虾面
- Xiamen Spring Roll 春卷
- Xiamen Pot Stickers 韭菜盒
- Braised Duck with Ginger 姜母鸭
- Xiamen Wonton soup 扁食汤
Attractions Near Xiamen
- Kinmen – take a ferry to the island and see villages with traditional Fujianese architecture.
- Hakka Tulou – In Yongding County, 3-5 hours from Xiamen. Read More
- Taiwan – You can take a ferry from Xiamen to Taiwan.